Property owners have different levels of responsibility to people who enter onto their property. The law has 3 different recognized categories of people who enter onto someone else’s property or premises. Depending on the facts and reasons for a person being on someone else’s property, a person can fall under one of 3 separate categories: invitees, licensees, and trespassers.
An individual who enters onto a property for the purpose of doing business is considered an invitee. An example of this type of classification would be a customer at a store or a patron at a bar or restaurant. A property owner has a duty to inspect his property to uncover hidden defects or dangers that may lead to injury and the owner must also warn any invitees of any hazardous conditions that may be present as well. A property owner owes the invitee the highest level of responsibility to safeguard from harm or injury.
An individual who enters onto a property for social reasons is considered a licensee. In contrast, a licensee is owed a lesser degree of responsibility than an invitee. A property owner’s duty to a licensee is to ensure that the property is free of dangerous conditions known to the owner that may cause an accident or injury and must take reasonable care to maintain or fix any defects in the property. A licensee may lose his or her status and become trespassers if they go outside the bounds of their permitted use of property owner’s premises.
The lowest duty of care is given to a trespasser. Trespassers are not authorized visitors on the owner’s premises and the owner does not have a duty of safety to unknown trespasser. Although there is very little or no duty of safety to a trespasser, the owner may not purposefully cause harm or injury to the trespasser. If a trespasser is known or the owner frequently has trespassers on his property then the owner may have a duty to warn the trespasser of any artificial conditions known to the owner that could cause serious injury or death. Furthermore, an owner has a higher level of responsibility to child trespassers due to the fact that children will often trespass to investigate attractive nuisances such as empty wells, abandoned mines, swimming pools, and other conditions that would compel children to trespass onto another person’s property. An owner’s duty to a child trespasser is to exercise ordinary care in order to avoid any foreseeable risk of harm or injury to the children trespassers.
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